February Storms Wash Away Drought Conditions. Will San Diegans Continue To Conserve?

February storms have left California flush with water, relieving concerns the state could quickly slip back into the drought conditions that plagued it for much of the last decade. Less than 3 percent of the state is now experiencing drought, down from nearly 84 percent just three months ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. At the same time, the state’s frozen reservoir of mountain snowpack is already 124 percent of average for the season.

OPINION: Why Are We Still Conserving Water?

The National Conflict Resolution Center handles many disputes involving minor family tensions that escalate into major sources of friction. We explore this category today with an example of a couple locked in disagreement over water conservation practices. Partner A, who grudgingly agreed to curtail water usage during the drought, believes the current onslaught of rain is a license to take long showers and run the tap while brushing teeth. Partner B, who is deeply committed to environmental sustainability, sees no reason to backslide into wasteful habits. Like most domestic standoffs, this was prompted by a “presenting issue” (an argument over water conservation), but it involves more complex challenges of handling 24/7 diverging views and clashing priorities.

Get Up To $250 In Drought-Resistant Plants Thanks To New Program

The Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District is launching the region’s first ever Residential Plant Voucher Program to incentivize residents to transform their landscapes with drought-tolerant plants and develop water-efficient gardening practices, it was announced Friday. The program will provide up to $250 dollars of water efficient plants from Garden View Nursery to qualifying residents, the water district press release said. The nursery was picked because it’s centrally located within Upper District’s area of service in Irwindale and has a wide selection of native plants and trees, the press release said.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Logo landscape design workshops

Water Districts Offer Discounted Rain Barrels to Save Water

Encinitas, Calif.—To encourage water conservation and reduce runoff that can carry pollutants into local waterways and beaches, Olivenhain Municipal Water District has partnered with Carlsbad Municipal Water District, San Dieguito Water District, and Santa Fe Irrigation District to offer discounted rain barrels to area residents. Rain barrels ordered by February 26 will be available for pick up at Solana Center for Environmental Innovation on March 2, between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. The center is located at 137 North El Camino Real in Encinitas.

City of San Diego’s 19th Annual Kids Poster Content

Calling all first through sixth grade students … the City of San Diiego Public Utilities Department is looking for the next Michaelangelo.  Get your students involved for a chance to be recognized as community ambassadors and local conservation celebrities.

Inland Valley Residents Encouraged to Conserve Water During Pipeline Repairs

A scheduled shutdown of a pipeline supplying most of the water for Inland Valley cities has prompted officials to ask customers to limit their water use over a 10-day period. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is suspending water deliveries through its Rialto Pipeline from Monday, Dec. 3 to Wednesday, Dec. 12 to conduct scheduled maintenance on a portion of the pipeline, said Kirk Howie, chief administrative officer for Three Valleys Municipal Water District.

Mirroring Native Plant Communities in Sustainable Landscaping

In nature, plants arrange themselves into communities of “friends” based on common microclimates, water and nutrient needs, and how they interact with the physical environment. Native plant communities also are based on interactions with each other and other species such as insects, birds, and other animals.

Most plant communities occur repeatedly in natural landscapes under similar conditions.

Local native plant communities have evolved together over a long period of time, and grow well together. They will even “reject” the outsiders and work together to compete for nutrients, sunlight, and other resources

This is one of many good reasons to learn about the San Diego region’s native plant communities and to select plants that like to live together in communities for sustainable landscaping.

Three examples of San Diego regional plant communities

California Coastal Prairie Community

California Coastal Prairie along the coast north of Jenner, California. Photo: Wikimedia/Creative Commons

California’s coastal prairies are the most diverse of any grassland in North America. Perennial flowers outnumber grass species here. Plants include: California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium), Fern Leaf Yarrow (Achillea ‘Moonshine’), Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus), and Cliff Buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium)

California Coastal Sage Scrub Community

California Coastal Sage Scrub in the San Pasqual area. Photo: Barbara Kus, USGS/Creative Commons

California Coastal Sage Scrub in the San Pasqual area. Photo: Barbara Kus, USGS/Creative Commons

California coastal sage scrub features fire-adapted, drought deciduous plants, which are rapidly disappearing to urbanization in southern California. Fortunately, some areas, including the San Diego Safari Park Biodiversity Reserve, have been conserved. Plants include: grey musk sage (Salvia Pozo Blue), sticky monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiaus), San Diego sage (salvia munzia), fuschia gooseberry (Ribes speciosum), and woolly bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum)

California Chaparral Community

California Chaparral near the University of California, San Diego. Photo: UCSD/Creative Commons

Chaparral exists in many coastal ranges, and on the western and eastern slopes of the southern California mountains. It is ‘hard’ brush that doesn’t rely as much on summer fog as the Coastal Sage Scrub does, and it is adapted to heat and drought. Plants include desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), bent grass (Agorstis pailens), San Diego mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus minutiflorus), bush poppy (Dendromeconi riguda), and clumping wild rye (Leymus condensatus),


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at



Homeowners learn through the Water Authority's Landscape Transformation program that sustainable landscaping can be as lush as a lawn. Photo Water Authority turf

Tearing Out the Turf: 1 Million Square Feet Targeted for Removal

San Diego County residents have targeted more than 1 million square feet of turf grass for replacement with WaterSmart landscaping through free landscape makeover classes sponsored by the San Diego County Water Authority over the past five years.

While not all the targeted turf has actually been removed, post-class surveys show that many participants end up taking out more turf than they initially planned after seeing the benefits of their work, said Joni German, who coordinates the Water Authority’s award-winning WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series.

“Because we give people the skills and the confidence to do this, they often go on to convert turf in another part of their yard,” she said.

Water savings potential tops 36 million gallons a year

The Water Authority's Landscape Transformation Program teaches homeowners the proper methods for removing turf. Photo: Water Authority

The Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series teaches homeowners the proper methods for removing turf. Photo: Water Authority

In the past five years, 947 people have completed the WaterSmart class series, which includes identifying turf areas for replacement with low-water use landscaping. Participants work one-on-one with local landscape architects to complete design and irrigation plans.

The Water Authority then compares estimated total water use for each homeowner before attending the four-class series, and after implementing a sustainable landscaping plan. In total, participants have identified more than 1 million square feet for conversion.

“We have documented about a 33 percent water savings in those plans,” said German. “The total water savings realized from removing 1 million square feet of turf is equal to 36.5 million gallons per year, or 112 acre-feet annually.”

One acre-foot is approximately 326,000 gallons, roughly enough to serve 2.5 typical Southern California families of four for a year.

Education helps homeowners embrace change

Example of a Landscape Transformation Program participant's yard prior to its sustainable makeover. Photo: Water Authority

Example of a WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Series participant’s yard prior to its sustainable makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The National Resources Defense Council said California homeowners are leading the transition away from lawns, which is expected to continue for more than a decade nationwide. And there is a long way to go: Lawns currently cover up to 50 million acres of land in the United States, consuming three trillion gallons of water each year, according to NRDC.

German said WaterSmart landscape makeover courses help homeowners change their thinking, and embrace the sustainable landscaping approach.

The same residence after its makeover to a sustainable landscape design. Photo: Water Authority

“Homeowners don’t know where to start,” said German. “They think they have to create a rocks and cactus landscape. Our program reflects a WaterSmart landscape for the San Diego lifestyle.

“In the course, we explain that we live in one of the most desirable climates on earth. People come and vacation here for our climate. We deserve beautiful, lush, colorful, thriving landscapes – and we can have them. They can be water-efficient, too,” said German.

German said the combination of course lectures, hands-on assignments, and support from landscaping professionals makes the classes highly practical. “We get participants to think about their lifestyle and take them down the path that gives them the skills and knowledge to actually implement their own landscape plan.”

Each class series is limited to 25 participants. Experts visit each homeowner’s proposed project area prior to the first class. They take measurements, locate irrigation heads, and produce a CAD drawing for homeowners to use in the class.

“With the help of local landscape professionals, homeowners create planting plans and irrigation plans specific to their project areas. They are either ready to implement the plans themselves, or work with a contractor to tell them what they want done,” said German.

Applications now open for 2019 courses

The Oberkamp home before its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The Oberkamp home before its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The Water Authority has scheduled a full calendar of WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Classes for 2019, with the first series starting in February in Fallbrook. Limited enrollment ensures every participant receives hands-on support. Homeowners who want to attend a course in 2019 should complete an online application and get on the waiting list. Apply at

The Oberkamp home after its landscaping makeover. Photo: Water Authority

The California Department of Water Resources funds the class series because it generates water savings. It also generates a lot of enthusiasm, according to participant reviews.  “Could not believe the amount of information and guidance. Worth every minute and highly recommended!” said one participant.

“Wonderful class!” said another. “The instructors, the workbook and resources are beyond belief. I still have a lot to learn, but I will definitely be implementing everything.”





Saving The World Via Fish, Water, Vegetables And Fruit

Inside a greenhouse off Champagne Boulevard north of Escondido, lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes are being grown in an aquaponic research facility designed to teach others about sustainable farming. The ultimate goal of the center is far loftier: to save the world. The small greenhouse, dubbed the Auqaponics Innovation Center, contains a sophisticated system that uses fish, water and numerous filtration systems. It’s run by Ecolife Conservation, a nonprofit headquartered in Escondido, whose director is Bill Toone, a conservation biologist by training.

Big Food Brands Commit to Conserve Water, Soil – and the Climate

Not long ago, the United Nations warned that water scarcity could be experienced by 40 percent of the world’s population by 2030. Last week, top U.N. scientists reported that problems associated with a warming climate, including drought, water scarcity and pollution, are likely to be worse than previously thought unless we work to hold the average global temperature rise to no more than 3.6F(1.5C). These warnings may seem daunting, but some of the world’s most influential companies are making strides that could significantly help alleviate worsening global water challenges.